Coincidentally just watched disc one of Dick Van Dyke Show last night, with the failed pilot which Carl starred in (he was much better playing his own boss). RIP, comic genius, thanks for the decades of laughs.
As I read in some commentary, if Mr. Reiner had ONLY created (and wrote the lion's share of S1,2 scripts for) "The Dick Van Dyke Show," that alone would accord him legend status. Watching his creation today one can truly appreciate how different it was from all other family-oriented sitcoms of the era.
Like the show he created, Carl Reiner was an original.
Yup, a total legend. The first thing I saw of his was The Thrill of It All (1963), although it was going to be many years before his name meant anything to me. With him, Steve Martin made brilliant films: The Jerk, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid & The Man With two Brains. The last thing I saw him in was a very brief guest spot in House MD.
Carl Reiner got his start in television appearing in live comedy shows such as “The Fifty-Fourth Street Revue,” which was broadcast live from a theater on 54th Street in New York, and “Floor Show,” one of the first shows to feature jazz on television.
Producer-director Max Liebman (1902-1981) had worked on Broadway, but is best known for having created the TV variety show "Your Show of Shows" (1950-54) that made Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca stars, and helped launch the careers of actors Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Nanette Fabray and the writers Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Mel Tolkin. Carl Reiner appeared in 139 episodes of the show, and also did some uncredited writing. Reiner’s time on “Your Show of Shows” would serve him well when he went to create his own series. In 1954, Reiner was nominated as “Best Series Supporting Actor” for his work on the show, losing to Art Carney for “The Jackie Gleason Show.”
(Clockwise from top left): Howard Morris, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, and Carl Reiner on “Your Show of Shows”
In 1973, Max Liebman selected 10 of the best comedy skits from "Your Show of Shows" and put them together into a feature film entitled, appropriately enough, TEN FROM YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. The compilation, although little seen outside of major cities, was roundly applauded by the critics, and brought Sid Caesar, particularly, back into the public eye once again.
From “Your Show of Shows,” Carl Reiner followed Sid Caesar into Caesar’s follow-up show, “Caesar’s Hour” (1954-57). The show included most of the same writers and actors, with the notable addition of writer Larry Gelbart (later the creator of M*A*S*H on television). Carl Reiner appeared on 68 episodes of the show, which differed from “Your Show of Shows” primarily in its use of longer sketches, some running up to half an hour.
In 1956, Reiner received an Emmy nomination as “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” for “Caesar’s Hour,” losing to Art Carney again, this time for Gleason’s spin-off series “The Honeymooners.” But the following year, Reiner won the Emmy for “Best Supporting Performance by an Actor.” One year later, for the final season of “Caesar’s Hour,” Reiner won a second Emmy—for the “Best Continuing Supporting Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic or Comedy Series.”
Carl Reiner made his feature film debut and received his first poster credit for the 1959 domestic comedy HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. The film was based on the 1954 play “Anniversary Waltz,” by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov, the Broadway run of which starred MacDonald Carey and Kitty Carlisle and was directed by Carlisle’s husband, Moss Hart. The film starred David Niven and Mitzi Gaynor as married couple “Chris and Alice Walters.” Patty Duke played the couple's daughter. Carl Reiner played ‘Bud,” Chris’ business partner, who is trying to land prospective client “Jeanette Revere” (Monique Van Vooren).
Carl Reiner and Monique Van Vooren in HAPPY ANNIVERSARY
David Miller (LONELY ARE THE BRAVE) directed the film. The score, by Sol Kaplan, has not had a release.
Debbie Reynolds, Glenn Ford, and director George Marshall re-teamed for the 1959 comedy-thriller THE GAZEBO. (They had made IT STARTED WITH A KISS earlier in the year.) In the film, "Elliot Nash" (Ford) is frenziedly working as a television writer-director and seeking advances on a new movie script in order to pay off a photographer's assistant named "Dan Shelby" (Stanley Adams), who is demanding money to suppress nude modeling shots of Elliot’s wife "Nell" (Reynolds), a Broadway star unaware of her husband's dilemma. Carl Reiner plays the couple’s friend, “Harlow Edison,” a district attorney, who advises Elliot on his crime writing.
“Frances Lawrence” (i.e., “Gidget”) (Deborah Walley) is desperate: her parents want to force her to come with them on vacation to Hawaii - just during the two weeks when her beloved “Jeff ‘Moondoggie’ Matthews" (James Darren) is home from college. When he suggests she go for it, she's even more in a panic - doesn't he care to be with her? So GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN in the worst mood. On the plane she meets the sociable “Abby” (Vicki Trickett), who gives her the advice to forget about Jeff - and regrets it shortly after, when Gidget follows the advice and steals Abby’s boyfriend “Eddie” (Michael Callan), a famous dancer. But then Jeff discovers he's missing Gidget. Carl Reiner played Gidget’s father, “Russ Lawrence,” in the film.
Eddie Foy, Jr., Peggy Cass, Jeff Donnell, and Carl Reiner in GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN
Paul Wendkos directed the 1961 comedy. The film marked Deborah Walley’s feature motion picture debut. Walley performed her own surfing scenes, which were all live-action with only two process shots used for closeups. A preview screening for an all-teenage audience at the Academy Theatre in Los Angeles was attended by producer Jerry Bresler, Michael Callan, James Darren, and Carl Reiner.
Music composer George Duning was quoted as saying he had to throw out at least six original songs due to bad recording and because they did not fit into the film. Duning stated that the project marked his first foray into writing Hawaiian music, which proved difficult. Only two songs, both written by Fred Karger and Stanley Styne, and performed by James Darren, remained in the film. No soundtrack has been released.
Many of the characters in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” were based on real people, because Carl Reiner created the show based on his time spent as actor and writer on the Sid Caesar vehicle “Your Show of Shows.” Carl Reiner himself portrayed the Sid Caesar character (called “Alan Brady” in the show). Van Dyke's character was based on Reiner himself.
The two main settings of the show covered the work and home life of “Rob Petrie” (Dick Van Dyke), the head writer of a comedy/variety show produced in Manhattan. Viewers are given an "inside look" at how a television show (the fictitious The Alan Brady Show) was written and produced. Many scenes deal with Rob and his co-writers, “Buddy Sorrell” (Morey Amsterdam) and “Sally Rogers” (Rose Marie). “Mel Cooley” (Richard Deacon), a balding straight man and recipient of numerous insulting one-liners from Buddy, was the show's producer and the brother-in-law of the show's star, “Alan Brady” (Carl Reiner). Since Rob, Buddy, and Sally write for a comedy show, the premise provides a built-in forum for them to constantly make jokes. Other scenes focus on the home life of Rob, his wife “Laura” (Mary Tyler Moore), and son “Ritchie” (Larry Mathews), who live in suburban New Rochelle, New York. Also often seen are their next-door neighbors and best friends, “Jerry Helper” (Jerry Paris), a dentist, and his wife “Millie” (Ann Morgan Guilbert).
Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
“The Dick Van Dyke Show” was preceded by a 1960 pilot for a series to be called “Head of the Family” with a different cast, although the characters were essentially the same, except for the absence of Mel Cooley. In the pilot, Carl Reiner, who created the show based on his own experiences as a TV writer, played “Robbie Petrie.” “Laura Petrie” was played by Barbara Britton, “Buddy Sorrell” by Morty Gunty, “Sally Rogers” by Sylvia Miles, “Ritchie” by Gary Morgan, and “Alan Sturdy,” the Alan Brady character, was played by Jack Wakefield, although his face was never fully seen, which was also the case with Carl Reiner's “Alan Brady” for the first three seasons of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
The pilot was unsuccessful. CBS executives decided that the main character was too Jewish, too intellectual, and too New York. This led Reiner to rework the show with Dick Van Dyke playing the central character (who went by “Rob”, not "Robbie").
Here, Reiner explains the origin of the show:
Carl Reiner’s Alan Brady is the egocentric, demanding, high maintenance, toupee-wearing star of The Alan Brady Show. Originally an unseen character, then shown only with his back to the camera or only in voice, Brady began to make full-face appearances in season four of the series. According to Reiner, Brady's face was never seen in the early years because Reiner hoped to get a big star to play Alan. But Reiner eventually decided to take on the role himself.
Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, and Richard Deacon on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
Many of the show's plots were inspired by Reiner's experiences as a writer for “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar's Hour,” both of which starred Sid Caesar. Reiner based the character of Rob Petrie on himself, but Rob's egocentric boss Alan Brady is not based on Caesar, but is a combination of the abrasive Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason, according to Reiner. Buddy Sorrell was based on the longtime television comedy writer Mel Brooks.
Reiner wrote 54 of the show’s 158 episodes. He and the other writers were very careful not to use any 1960s slang in the show's scripts. In fact, references to any time period or current events were rare.
Reiner would often ask cast and crew members about funny things that had happened to them, then he would write whole episodes about these occurrences. As a result, a majority of the episodes over the course of the show's five-season run were based on actual events.
Carl Reiner heads a table read of that week’s script for “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
The episode “My Blonde-Haired Brunette” (when Laura dyed her hair blonde, temporarily) was the ninth episode filmed during the first season, but it was the second episode to be aired, because Carl Reiner was so impressed with Mary Tyler Moore's rapid development that he wanted to highlight her in an episode as soon as possible. He had thoughts of it being the series' debut.
Reiner asked network censors for permission to show Laura and Rob sleeping in one large bed together, reasoning (quite sensibly) that he and his wife did so in real life. The permission was denied, and the Petries are always depicted sleeping in nearby twin beds (as was the custom of TV series of the era; "Bewitched" being the exception to the rule).
The show's production company was called Calvada Productions. The name came from the names of all of the key persons involved in production: Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard, Dick Van Dyke and Danny Thomas.
CBS debuted “The Dick Van Dyke Show” on Tuesday, 3 October 1961, at 8 PM. The show’s competition was “Bachelor Father” on ABC and “Laramie” on NBC. The show didn’t set fire to the ratings, and in January, CBS moved the show to Wednesday at 9:30, opposite “Hawaiian Eye” (ABC) and “The Kraft Music Hall” (NBC), which was the #25-ranked show of the season.
Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, and Carl Reiner on the set of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
CBS cancelled the show at the end of the first season, then reversed its decision. This was a wise move on the part of CBS. At the May 1962 Emmy Awards, Carl Reiner won an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy.” Going into Season 2 (1962-63), the show stayed in the Wednesday at 9:30 slot. As the season progressed, “The Dick Van Dyke” show found its footing and easily bested “Our Man Higgins” (ABC) and “The Kraft Music Hall” (NBC) and finished strong as the #9 show on television for the season.
Carl Reiner again won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Writing, John Rich won for directing, and the show won for “Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Humor.” Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, and Rose Marie were all nominated for their acting.
Season 3 (1963-64) was even more successful. Bolstered by the lead-in of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the #1 show on television, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” climbed to #3 in the ratings, knocking off “Ben Casey” (ABC) and “Espionage” (NBC). Carl Reiner won his third Emmy in a row for comedy writing, and Van Dyke, Moore, and Jerry Paris won for acting. Rose Marie was again nominated. For the second year in a row, the program won for “Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Comedy.”
Richard Deacon, Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jerry Paris at the 1964 Emmy Awards.
Season four (1964-65) showed that “The Dick Van Dyke Show” could stand on its own. While “The Beverly Hillbillies” slipped to #12 in the ratings. “Van Dyke” improved upon its lead-in, coming in at #7 for the season. The casualties on the other networks were ABC’s “Mickey” and NBC’s “Wednesday Night at the Movies.” At the Emmys, Carl Reiner was nominated for writing and won as a producer this time for “Outstanding Program Achievements in Entertainment.” Van Dyke won his second acting Emmy.
In its fifth season (1965-66), the show slipped a little, finishing in 16th place. But it still handily beat “The Big Valley” on ABC and “The Bob Hope Chrysler Theatre” on NBC. Carl Reiner won an Emmy as the producer of the “Outstanding Comedy Series.” Van Dyke and Moore won acting Emmys. Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie were nominated.
According to Morey Amsterdam, the show was scheduled to return for the 1966-1967 season and was going to be seen in color for the first time. However, the plan was scrapped when Dick Van Dyke decided he had enough. This contradicts Carl Reiner, who is on record as saying the decision to end the series was his alone. In any event, Reiner made it clear that he would not be returning as producer after the fifth season, and the consensus opinion was that it would have been impossible to do the show without him.
In August 1961, Hollywood film producer Ross Hunter decided to shift his activities to New York City. THE THRILL OF IT ALL would be one of his first East Coast projects, with production slated to begin January 1962 in Manhattan, as well as in suburban Connecticut. The project marked television writer Carl Reiner’s first produced feature screenplay. In the film, a housewife's (Doris Day’s) sudden rise to fame as a soap spokesperson leads to chaos in her home life. Carl Reiner also had a recurring cameo as the star of one of the TV shows in which Day's character does live commercials week after week. In that TV star role, he played a Nazi Officer, a Cad, and a Cowboy.
Carl Reiner had intended the role of “Beverly Boyer” for Judy Holliday, but her ill health prevented her from making the film. This was the second time that Doris Day stepped into a film role that had been intended for someone else. The first, MOVE OVER, DARLING (1963), was originally being shot as “Something's Got To Give” (1962) starring Marilyn Monroe, whose tragic death lead to that film's being recast and filmed with Ms. Day.
Reiner starred in the film’s trailer:
The film opened 1 August 1963 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Critics praised the high production values and noted that Reiner’s witty observations and sharp dialogue elevated what was otherwise a fairly “sudsy” comedy.
Norman Jewison directed the film, which had an unreleased score by Frank DeVol. The film had healthy grosses totaling $15.7 million.
Carl Reiner appeared in two 1964 episodes of the television crime series “Burke’s Law”. In the second of these, “Who Killed Supersleuth?,” four famous cops (from London, Paris, Tokyo and Budapest), plus an irascible American private eye, are all suspects when yet another famous sleuth is murdered. Reiner played the London cop, “Chief Inspector House.”
Season 3 (1963-64) was even more successful. Bolstered by the lead-in of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the #1 show on television,...
Amazing. I can clearly recall Van Dyke doing a voice promo during the closing credits of TBH suggesting we have an apple before sitting down to his show. There would always be a commercial or two between shows in them days.
Writer Richard Alan Simmons originally planned to establish his own independent production company to develop his latest film and television projects, but in April 1962 Universal Pictures purchased film rights to THE ART OF LOVE, a story Simmons wrote with William Sackheim. The studio paid at least $75,000 for the treatment, which was adapted into screenplay format by Carl Reiner. In the Paris-set comedy, struggling artist “Paul” plans to fake his own death with the help of friend “Casey” so his works will increase in value. Before he can do this however, Paul jumps off a bridge to save “Nikki,” who is fleeing lascivious attentions. Casey then believes that Paul has actually drowned.
More than a year passed before casting began, with Rock Hudson and James Garner initially signed for the two leading male roles. Producer Ross Hunter intended to cast Brigitte Bardot as “Nikki Dunay,” but when the filming location was changed from Paris to Los Angeles, Ann-Margret was rumored for the role instead. Although Ross secured a commitment from director Norman Jewison, Rock Hudson did not remain attached to the project, and Tony Curtis, Robert Goulet, and George Maharis were considered as potential replacements. On 24 December 1963, Daily Variety announced that Dick Van Dyke had agreed to appear alongside Garner, who also participated as an executive producer through his company, Cherokee Productions.
Despite his earlier intention to cast American actress Ann-Margret, Ross was holding screen tests for European actresses in Paris. Elke Sommer’s casting was son thereafter, although Britt Ekland had also reportedly been considered for the role. Carl Reiner also acted in the film, as French defense counsel “Rodin.”
Dick Van Dyke, Elke Sommer, and Carl Reiner on the set of THE ART OF LOVE
Approximately one week before the end of production, Reiner and Norman Jewison rewrote the ending of the script seven times. More than five months later, Van Dyke returned to the studio facility to shoot additional close-ups.
THE ART OF LOVE grossed $9.6 million at the box office. Cy Coleman’s score was released on a Capitol LP, which was re-issued on CD by Kritzerland in 2011.